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dir Chris Morris
prd Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
scr Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Simon Blackwell
with Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Preeya Kalidas, Benedict Cumberbatch, Craig Parkinson, Julia Davis, Wasim Zakir, Alex Macqueen, Adil Mohammed Javed
release US Jan.10 sff, UK 7.May.10
10/UK Film4 1h42
Brothers in arms: Ahmed and Novak
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
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Treating a taboo topic with broad comedy is dangerous business, as it risks trivialising something serious while offending rather a lot of people. Fortunately, these filmmakers are smart enough to get away with it.
Omar (Ahmed) is a shopping mall guard with a wife (Kalidas) and son, plus chucklehead pals Waj, Barry and Fessel (Novak, Lindsay and Akhtar) who like him aspire to be jihadists. Omar and Waj even go to a Pakistan training centre, but when things go wrong there, they decide to prove their devotion with a terrorist attack. Meanwhile, Barry has drafted in jokester Hassan (Ali), and after building and, erm, testing a few bombs, four of them head for London as suicide bombers.
Filmmaker Morris based this on years of research into what really goes on in terrorism cells, during which he found that basic human stupidity is alive and well even here. The script is beefed up with astute dialog from the writers of In the Loop and Peep Show, as well as smart improv from the cast, which means that the humour is based on characters rather than situations. This clever approach makes the film both thoroughly entertaining and shrewdly telling.
Even so, we never have a clue what makes them so willing to sacrifice their lives. They're normal working-class Brits with Western-style aspirations, and the Sheffield location echoes that other film about normal guys desperate to be noticed: The Full Monty. Yet besides Omar, these men are such morons that we're amazed that they actually manage to accomplish anything. And the cops aren't much more efficient than they are.
This Three Stooges approach cleverly undercuts the intensely weighty themes, and provides a startling jolt of raw emotion in the final turn of events. From start to finish the dialog snaps with knowing humour and jagged wit, but it's Morris' grounding in real life that makes this film so notable, as he subtly undermines the whole idea of jihad. And also the War on Terror. Really, we should be ashamed for making these people out to be anything more than opportunistic murderers. But we should also be careful about laughing at them.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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